This year, I am doing a reading challenge called Around the World in 52 Books with a group in GoodReads. Making the list of what I wanted to read and hunting down the books online and in used book stores has been a blast, and I will be posting reviews in GoodReads and in my reading blog, Reading Envy.
Of course, reading 52 books didn't seem like enough. I started to wonder if I could challenge myself to do a baked good from every country too. Either a bread or a dessert. I'm not sure I'll have time every week, but I'm going to try!
Most of the time, I will hunt down a recipe before reading the selected book, but I might find myself changing my mind based on what is in the book. I definitely did that this time around. I was all set to make a Povitica, which is a nut bread prominent throughout eastern Europe, particularly the former Yugoslavia. As I read The Tiger's Wife, I kept coming across mentions of pepper cookies in the beginning of the book. I got curious, did some internet research, and I found such interesting anecdotes connected to paprenjaci that I changed directions.
The one recipe I find online was originally posted by a man named Nitko, who lives in Zagreb and seems to have posted many of his grandmother's recipes online. These have been copied and reposted many other places on the internet. His recipe for paprenjaci was promising, but contained lard, and everything was in grams. I don't eat lard, and wanted a recipe I could share, so what you see below is my take, as close to the original as I could make it.
Croatian Black Pepper Cookies (Paprenjaci)
- 6 oz butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper*
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons light honey
- 1 egg
- 1 1/4 cup walnuts, ground (measured first)
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cream butter, sugar, and honey. Mix in egg. Mix in spices, then nuts and flour. Chill dough at least two hours. Roll out and use cookie molds or cookie cutters. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.
* - These are pretty peppery. Given the chance to make them again, I might do just 1 tsp.
According to WikiTravel, paprenjaci are said to reflect Croatia's tumultuous history because they combine the harshness of the war periods (pepper) with the natural beauties (honey). This fits right in with the story in The Tiger's Wife. Come read my review!